The featured speaker was President Hugo Chávez, who is seeking reelection in the December 3 vote. His main opponent is Manuel Rosales, governor of the oil-rich state of Zulia, who is backed by a coalition of pro-imperialist parties and sections of the capitalist class.
In addition to the JVR, the government's National Youth Institute and a coalition of groups backing Chávez's reelection were among the sponsors of the event. The electoral alliance includes the youth groups of the Socialist Party of Venezuela, National Independent Movement, Communist Party of Venezuela, and Patria Para Todos, as well as the Francisco de Miranda Front. The latter organizes youth who have studied social work in Cuba and then work in working-class and rural areas here.
Most of those who attended the rally were students from high schools, universities, technical schools, and military academies across the country. They included a contingent of about 100 students at a new medical school that the Venezuelan government opened two years ago in Barquisimeto, the capital of Lara state. The students were all seated in a prominent spot in the arena and stood out in their white coats.
"About 1,500 are enrolled at the school," medical student Héctor Antonio Guerra said. "We are being trained to be part of the Barrio Adentro program, because when the government asked for volunteers very few Venezuelan doctors came forward. We are studying medicine to work alongside the Cubans when we graduate."
Through Barrio Adentro (Into the Barrio) the government has brought some 20,000 Cuban medical personnel to Venezuela. They operate clinics in working-class districts and rural areas offering dignified medical services free of charge to people who did not have access to health care in the past.
In his speech, Chávez emphasized that campaigning over the next two weeks should focus on winning more than 60 percent of the vote, not just winning reelection. He urged the youth to work toward building a political organization after the elections, not just an electoral group as the JVR largely is today. He quoted extensively from Socialism and Man in Cuba by Cuban revolutionary leader Ernesto Che Guevara.
Musical performances and remarks by representatives of sponsoring groups and some of the guests preceded his talk.
Speakers included Marta Quiñones of the Francisco de Miranda Front in Amazon state, where the JVR is trying to build a base among the largely indigenous population, and Carlesis Ascaño, a student at the Central University of Caracas.
"Indigenous people have been subjected to murder, racism, and recent attempts to eradicate our culture," said Quiñones in expressing her organization's support for reelecting Chávez. "We now feel we have a chance to change that."
Tania D'Amelio, national coordinator of the JVR and a deputy in the National Assembly, also spoke. After outlining activities aimed at securing a resounding victory for Chávez, she asked four people seated among 1,000 special guests in front of the platform to address the rally briefly from the floor.
The four guests were José Serpa, who helps coordinate the Barrio Adentro program in Lara; María Rosa Jiménez from Guárico, of the Francisco de Miranda Front; Christian Algedis Hernández, a leader of a student group in Caracas; and Christian Castro, who gave solidarity greetings on behalf of the Young Socialists in the United States.
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